As I understand it, that was Dad’s ever-so-romantic proposal to Mom back in 1949, delivered in that fine Austin dining establishment, Jake’s, a burger & beer joint.
On September 3, 1949, Nora Dell Massey married Leonard Keith Buller.
Till death did they part…
Children never really know their parents as people, so I can only speak of them as parents who raised me and my older brother, Scott, in a house full of love. And they taught me through that love and their own loving example about being a family.
See, the two of them could hardly have had different family backgrounds. My Mom came from a family with two sets of siblings, 5 from Granddad’s first marriage and 4 (including her) from his second one, as well cousins and aunts and uncles scattered around Texas. Mom loved nothing more than a house full of visitors, either family or friends.
My dad, on the other hand, grew up as the only child of a single, working mother, my Granny Tilly. While she had 3 sisters, Dad had only one surviving cousin by the time he married Mom. He had to have become used to a lot of solitary silence.
When they first married, my Dad worked on seismic exploration crews throughout the region, and they lived in a trailer house, rarely staying in one spot more than a month or two. That’s how my brother was born in the north Texas town Nocona but I was born almost 3 years later in Austin.
We would settle down in Houston by the time I was 2 and Houston became my family’s home.
Along the way, they lost a third son, Brian Craig, at two days due to complications during birth. I could never really understand how deeply this must have hurt and changed them until I had a son myself. Some couples never recover from the devastating loss of a child. I know now the fact they stayed together and grew stronger as a couple is testament to their love, the bedrock foundation of our family.
When their 40th wedding anniversary rolled around in 1989, our family was reeling from another loss — my niece, their granddaughter, Jessie, had died of brain cancer just over 6 months previously. My brother & sister-in-law, Scott & Joanie moved into the “grandmother” apartment in the folks’ house for support, both emotional and financial.
The 40th anniversary offered all of us the respite of a celebration.
Joanie decided the folks deserved a banner out in the yard to proclaim their love to the world. As they had done so many time before, family and friends flocked to the Buller house from all around for a festive evening — this time, all at the same time, and all for the same reason: to celebrate Mom & Dad’s love.
Yes, we had us a time.
When I think of my parents’ marriage on their anniversary, that’s the crowning image comes to mind from their many years of making a family.
Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad — thanks for all of the love and the shining example of family love and strength through tragedy and triumphs.